“Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a done deal,” reads the headline at Salon as the Senate Judiciary Committee wraps up its hearing on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. That this was painfully obvious weeks ago doesn’t quite figure into Matthew Rozsa’s analysis, but more importantly, neither does why. One name never gets mentioned … and Hot Air readers can probably guess whose it is.
We’ll get back to that in a moment. Rozsa’s certainly not incorrect on the base point — Kavanaugh’s not going to get stopped, and certainly not after these hysterics:
The consensus among commentators seems to be that, while there are a lot of problematic details regarding the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh for the United States Supreme Court, his ultimate triumph is virtually inevitable.
As Stephen Collinson of CNN wrote, the Democrats have been trying their hardest to trip up Kavanaugh as he attempts to land his lifetime judicial appointment, but so far their efforts have not yielded political fruit.
Actually, Collinson didn’t exactly say that Democrats are “trying their hardest.” What Collinson did write, in the excerpt provided by Rozsa but apparently not fully comprehended, was that the hearings were “vindictive and ill-tempered,” and that the spectacle “added up to exactly the kind of petty, small, negative politics that mourners at Sen. John McCain’s funeral on Saturday used their eulogies to decry.” Kavanaugh had to spend his time “dodging snares led by Democratic senators,” a process at which he seems to have succeeded.
Collinson also pointed out that this has little to do with Kavanaugh or his qualifications for the office:
Democrats knew going into this week that their minority status in the Senate gave them little hope of blocking Kavanaugh’s march to the bench.
But after nearly two years of angst following Hillary Clinton’s shocking defeat in 2016 — it was time to show backbone and defiance and to give party activists a glimpse of a better future.
And for potential 2020 presidential candidates like Democrats Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, the hearing was an early chance to build buzz and to capture the hearts of primary voters who will soon be shopping for a candidate.
That’s not “trying their hardest” to expose Kavanaugh; it’s politicians trying their hardest to hijack the process for their own political ambitions. Harris and Booker, er, Spartacus, were the worst of the actors, although Richard Blumenthal likely deserves a bronze even absent the presidential ambitions. None of their ostensible focus fell on Kavanaugh’s twelve years of appellate jurisprudence, by far the most significant qualification for the Supreme Court, but over document processing and barely notable memos from Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush administration.
Rozsa also quotes the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board in lamenting the certainty of Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but that misses the point too:
Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a foregone conclusion, not because of his qualifications or the commitments he made to respect precedent and safeguard judicial independence. We earnestly hope that he meant it when he assured Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that he not only recognizes that Roe vs. Wade “has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years,” but also that he is aware of the real-world implications of overruling that decision. (“I don’t live in a bubble,” he said.) Yet these and other assurances Kavanaugh offered aren’t the reason he is headed to the Supreme Court.
He will be filling the seat vacated by retired Justice Anthony Kennedy because he is the conservative nominee of a Republican president (albeit an unorthodox one) and the Senate is controlled by Republicans who no longer need to worry about the wishes of the minority party.
The very next paragraph, however, points out that it’s partisanship that’s preventing an accurate appreciation of Kavanaugh’s “strong credentials”:
Despite Kavanaugh’s strong credentials, he likely will be opposed by the overwhelming majority of Democratic senators, just as Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was. Some of those Democrats who vote no, we suspect, will do so even though they privately believe Kavanaugh deserves to be confirmed.
The LA Times editors weren’t lamenting Kavanaugh’s confirmation, or even its certainty, but the poisonous atmosphere around Supreme Court nominations in general. The essay misdiagnoses the problem and therefore offers improbable solutions — restoring the filibuster would likely mean no confirmations at all, and elections and/or term limits for Supreme Court justices would only exacerbate the problem — but it’s still an interesting read, even if it’s not exactly what Rozsa represents.
Therefore we get to Rozsa’s conclusion:
The bottom line is quite simply that, now that Republicans have made it impossible for Democrats to filibuster Supreme Court nominees, they can shove Kavanaugh through the Senate regardless of any legitimate reservations about his character and agenda. That is a troubling precedent for this country, and commentators seem to know it.
This is where the missing name comes into play — Harry Reid. He and Chuck Schumer decided that they could change Senate rules on a simple majority vote to eliminate filibusters on presidential appointments in 2013 for the express purpose of shoving several Obama appointees onto the DC circuit court of appeals over the objections of the minority. That set a new precedent for rule changes, and when Democrats filibustered Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court, Mitch McConnell responded in kind. The troubling precedent of which Rozsa writes was set in 2013, not 2017 or 2018. Thanks to that strategy, Democrats find themselves hoist by their own petard.
Still, Rozsa’s right that Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a done deal. None of the antics this week changed the trajectory of this nomination in the slightest. And to be honest, none of it was intended for that purpose anyway.